coal

Few Answers For Unpaid Miners After Day One of Blackjewel Sales Hearing

Aug 6, 2019
Sydney Boles

Blackjewel coal miners will have to wait at least another day to learn if the sale of the bankrupt coal company’s mines and equipment will deliver their overdue paychecks.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia recessed Monday after an all-day hearing that yielded few results. The court is scheduled to resume the hearing Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Presiding Judge Frank Volk approved six bids, however the three main sale proposals for Blackjewel mines in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming remain in limbo.

Curren Sheldon

Unpaid miners spent a fourth day Thursday on a Kentucky railroad protesting Blackjewel Mining, as a bankruptcy court prepared to sell off the company’s assets.

Blackjewel Miners Block Railroad To Demand Pay From Bankrupt Coal Company

Jul 30, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Some coal miners left without pay by the bankruptcy of coal company Blackjewel LLC are protesting by blocking a coal train in eastern Kentucky.

The stand-off began early Monday when five miners blocked the train from leaving the Cumberland, Kentucky, plant. Despite police asking them to leave, miners spent the night blocking the railroad to protest Blackjewel moving coal while miners have yet to be paid.


Brittany Patterson

Down bumpy back roads deep in central West Virginia, a flat, bright green pasture opens up among the rolling hills of coffee-colored trees.

Wildflowers and butterflies dot the pasture, but West Virginia University Professor Jeff Skousen is here for something else that stands above the rest of the Appalachian scenery – literally.

Thick stalks of green-yellowish grass reach up ten feet into the air like a beanstalk out of a fairy tale, and Skousen is dwarfed by it.


Coal Miners Back in Washington Fighting for Benefits

Jul 24, 2019
Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee

United Mine Workers and supporters were on Capitol Hill Wednesday in an effort to shore up their pension and health benefits. More than 43,000 coal miners in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are growing anxious about losing their retirement benefits.

The coal miner’s union says its pension fund will be insolvent in three years if Congress doesn’t take action. If the pension plan defaults, coal miner’s retirement plans will fall to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which will reduce their benefits. It would also put the PBGC at risk of insolvency.  


Adelina Lancianese

Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. 

“It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a fourth-generation coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, who made the trip to Washington with his oxygen tank in tow. 

A bill introduced in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina would restore a tax on coal that supports the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides benefits for some 25,000 disabled miners and their families.

Sydney Boles

Dozens of Appalachian coal miners plan to visit Capitol Hill Tuesday to ask lawmakers to bolster funding for the black lung disability trust fund, which miners depend upon when no responsible company can be identified to pay for needed health care.

The fund is already billions of dollars in debt, and that will likely grow as more miners develop the disease and coal companies pay less into the fund. Coal companies pay a tax to support the trust fund, which pays monthly income and health benefits for miners who were disabled by the preventable and deadly occupational disease.


Jeff Young

Declining coal tax revenues place coal-reliant counties in Appalachia at risk of fiscal collapse, according to new research from the centrist Brookings Institution and Columbia University. Policies designed to prevent further climate change would accelerate that decline, the report found, but could also provide a new stream of revenue to help communities rebound from coal’s demise.


Laid-Off Employees Of Bankrupt Blackjewel Mining Seek Pay, Answers

Jul 11, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Patrick Fitchpatrick has worked at Blackjewel’s D-11 coal mine in Cumberland, Kentucky, for more than a year. He said he enjoyed the work right up until he was told not to come in last Monday. 

“Everything was smooth sailing and then one day it just all goes to hell,” he said.

The country’s sixth-largest coal company filed bankruptcy last week, and Fitchpatrick was among many of Blackjewel’s 1,100 workers across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia who were suddenly out of work.

 


Jeff Young

Kentucky’s Attorney General said on Friday he is investigating complaints from miners who say they are not receiving pay following the fast-moving bankruptcy negotiations for Blackjewel mining, which employs some 1100 people in Central Appalachia.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a statement he has received “numerous troubling complaints” related to the company, “ranging from clawed back paychecks to child support issues.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

In the latest sign of problems for the U.S. coal industry, one of the country’s largest coal producers has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

West Virginia-based Revelation Energy LLC and its recently-formed affiliate, Blackjewel LLC, began the bankruptcy reorganization process in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Monday. 

The companies, owned and controlled by Milton, West Virginia, resident Jeff Hoops, a longtime coal executive, employ about 1,700 employees across its Central Appalachian coal mining holdings and two large Wyoming coal mines, which were acquired in 2017. 


Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky will have three years to devise plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants under the Trump Administration’s finalized Affordable Clean Energy rule.

The effectiveness of the rule has been called into question by environmentalists and at least one former Obama administration official while Kentucky’s own Department of Environmental Protection says it will reduce carbon emissions and provide regulatory certainty.

The so-called ACE rule will require state officials to conduct a unit-by-unit review of coal-fired electric generating units. The analysis will look at ways to improve efficiency at coal plants and set a limit on the amount of emissions they can produce, said Sean Alteri, Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection deputy commissioner.

Appalachian Regional Commission

An annual report from the Appalachian Regional Commission shows that while Appalachia is seeing some economic improvement, the heart of the region and its coal-producing communities are still struggling. Several counties in the Ohio Valley are moving in a negative direction in this year’s report. 

The ARC report evaluates the Appalachian region using county-level data on unemployment, per capita market income, and poverty. Counties are rated on a scale with five tiers. At the low end are those “economically distressed,” or those ranking among the worst 10 percent of county economies in the country. At the high end is “attainment,” for those with thriving economies on par with the nation’s top performing places. In between are counties labeled “at risk,” “transitional,” or “competitive.”


Carol Guzy for NPR

Kentucky State Rep. Angie Hatton met with lawmakers in Washington D.C. this week to push for a bill that would bring home more than $100 million for hard-hit coal communities.

The RECLAIM Act would fast-track the distribution of $1 billion to clean up abandoned coal mines and promote economic development in communities across Appalachia, Colorado and Illinois — including $116 million for coal counties in the Commonwealth.

For decades, Kentucky has mined the coal that has powered the nation, but production and employment is less than half of what it was a decade ago.

West Virginia Governor’s Office

Coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have agreed to a settlement covering millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in four eastern Kentucky counties: Harlan, Knott, Magoffin, and Pike.

Checks totaling $1.2 million from Justice entities began rolling in last week, county officials said. According to state officials, the checks cover half the delinquent debt owed. Counties will receive the remaining amount in payments over the next six months.


Pages